We know the old saying that goes “never peek into the kitchen of your favourite restaurant”, but as far as appetites are concerned, AirAsia is more than glad to open up its doors to show us what goes on to bring the delicious inflight meals enjoyed by many 35,000 feet up in the air.
Words by Ari Vanuaranu
I always book my inflight meals online because it’s a wise choice. My food will be served first whilst the rest of the passengers can only drool at my mouth-watering smells wafting through the plane *evil laugh*. What I didn’t know that so much preparation goes into the simple dish we hold in our hands!
Before each flight to your dream destination takes off, the AirAsia kitchen team will have your order prepared along with the other 13,145 pre-book meals on average received every single day. Before I enter their spotless kitchen, I was asked to wash up and don the required attire–jacket, hairnet, mask, gloves and shoe covers. No place for germs here!
1) Pre-preparation: Start with a Clean Slate
Literally! The slate is where the kitchen staff washes and scrubs the fresh ingredients from various quality suppliers, sourced locally and from abroad. The cleaning process may seem trivial, but they have to make sure that everything is cleaned without losing much of the nutrients.
There are several ways of cleaning the produce, depending on the type. Smooth-skinned apples and bell peppers need to be soaked first before you proceed to rub them under running water. For vegetables like cabbages, it takes a bit more effort as they need to ensure that each leaf is cleaned thoroughly. After cleaning, it’s off to the chopping board.
Do you know why the bread used in their sandwiches is always fresh and fluffy? Apparently, it’s because they order the premium European breads daily. That explains everything! I saw one of the kitchen staff working on the Chicken Mayo with Apple Sandwich that I have pre-booked and noticed that the bread used was laugen rolls, whose slight sweetness does complement the overall sour filling. AirAsia certainly understands that the secret to delicious food is to use the best ingredients.
The kitchen team is also proud to inform that since 2010, they have been awarded with ISO 22000:2005 which is an internationally-recognized Food Safety Management System. In addition, all meals served in AK flights are certified halal by JAKIM.
2) Preparation: Chop and Spread
I watched in wonderment as the lady diced the baked skinless chicken meat in a fast yet steady pace. Next, diced meat joined their mates the apple chunks to be topped with my favourite Japanese mayonnaise.
The next kitchen staff in line spread the sliced breads with the filling and fresh vegetables. I had to stop myself from drooling because I could practically taste the delicious sandwich. Fortunately for them, I managed to control myself and the sandwiches were safely ushered to the hot sealing machine.
3) Storage: Keep Calm and Chill Out
After the meals are all packed up, the next step is to store them inside a chilled room. I’d imagined the chilled rooms may have been convenient to keep pet penguins (if they are allowed to have any), but most importantly, it’s to chill the food in preparation for its journey from the warehouse to the planes. This conditions the freshness even when the food is being loaded onboard. For hot meals, the cook-chill system is deployed — meals are cooked until at the point of almost done and then they will be rapidly chilled (a method known as blast chilling).
4) Sorting: Divide and Conquer
It’s sorting time! When the time comes for the meals to be delivered into the flights, the warehouse team will make sure that the right meal goes into the right cart, which in turn will go into the right plane.
5) Transporting: All Aboard!
One of the things that impressed me the most was the fact that even during the process of transporting from the warehouse to the planes, both warehouse and transport teams will check diligently from time to time that the meals remain chilled at all times. Dry ice is also used as it is important to keep them in that condition, especially in a tropical country where hot and humid weather spoils the food faster, in addition to safe food handling practice.
6) Eating: ‘Nuff said’
My sandwich will reach me all fresh and fluffy onboard because of the strict temperature control in the delivery process, and it is the best way to have it. If you order one of their hot meals, the flight attendants will heat them up just nicely before serving you.
Watch the adventure of the Chicken Mayo with Apple Sandwich in the making from the moment it was pre-booked online until it reached the plane in the video below:
Now that I understand the great stride they take to upkeep the quality of food, I am able to appreciate the love and commitment put forth in every meal onboard AirAsia flights; and I hope that you, dear readers, feel the same way too.
I wouldn’t dream of taking a flight and hoping to have my favourite meal onboard only to be all bummed out when the nice and attractive cabin crew tells me that they ran out of it. That is why I urge everyone to pre-book their meals to avoid disappointment. Plus all pre-book meals come with 100ml mineral water, so I guess it’s not too bad of a deal, is it?